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GolfWRX Morning 9: Better matchups than Tiger-Phil | Remembering the Skins Game | More arguments for watching The Match

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving, golf fans. I’m truly thankful for all of you that open this email every day (and only slightly less thankful for those of you who only open it some days). But truly, wishing you the best this holiday.
1. Instead of Tiger-Phil…
Michael Collins put down the microphone and stopped posting to social media long enough to do a bit of writing for ESPN. He proposes alternatives to the Tiger-Phil match that he’d rather see. Good stuff!
  • “Patrick Reed vs. Jordan Spieth...I know Reed would do most of the smack-talking — until Spieth got to a boiling point. That’s what everyone would be paying to see.”
  • “Dustin Johnson vs. Brooks Koepka…You’ll have to keep checking your television to make sure it’s not on mute. It won’t be. Oh, it’ll feel like it though. Silence. That’s exactly how much talking will be going on. They might mumble a word or two to each other, and we know what that would sound like. So … Vegas side bet: Over/under on how many times you hear “bro” or “brah” is set at 125.”
  • “Justin Thomas vs. Ian Poulter…Here’s the rule: Neither of them can talk. Just let them be surrounded by hecklers and see what happens. Poulter’s hecklers are chosen from Twitter and Thomas’ come only from select Auburn fans.”
2. Meanwhile, in Melbourne…
BBC Report…”England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter hold a share of the lead after the first round of the World Cup of Golf in Australia. In the opening round of fourballs, the pair shot a bogey-free 10-under par round of 62 in Melbourne.”
“They are level with Australia’s Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith as well as South Korean duo Kim Si-woo and An Byeong-hun. The two-man teams compete in alternate shot foursomes in Friday’s round two.”
3. What the Tour will be watching during Tiger-Phil
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in May to overturn the 1992 federal law that banned commercial sports betting in most states created a bold new landscape for all sports leagues, but particularly the Tour.”
  • “Assuming we get to the right place with fan protections and using the right data, our sport is in such a unique position,” Monahan said. “You look at the stick-and-ball sports, you see the ball, there’s one ball and one group of players that are all in front of you. You can see everything on one screen.
  • “In our sport, you’ve got 78 players out on the golf course at one point in time and we’ve got a system in ShotLink that produces a significant amount of data and a significant amount of possibilities. Think about what that can mean for our game, for our fans, it’s exciting.”
  • Those possibilities will get something of a cold open on Friday when Mickelson and Woods tee off at Shadow Creek. Although some say The Match is a decade too late, it’s a perfect model for officials to gauge fan interest of potential “in-play” betting. Although the Tour doesn’t have any historical data about Shadow Creek, Mickelson’s track record from, say, 10 feet (he ranked 164th last season on Tour with a 33.8 percent conversion) is well documented.
4. Another defense of The Match
This time, it’s Adam Woodard at USA Today telling you why you should watch. Countless (like, 4) reasons, he says.
  • A bit of his argument…”Both players won a PGA Tour event last season. Mickelson won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, an event where only the world’s best qualify, and Woods won the Tour Championship, the final event of the Tour season featuring the year’s top 30 players.”
  • “Sponsors put up the $9 million prize, but Woods and Mickelson will pony up some of their own money on side bets throughout the competition, with all the money going to charity. On Tuesday, Mickelson baited Woods into a $200,000 bet that he will birdie the opening hole. Expect plenty more just like that.”
  • “Other expected bets will be long drive and closest-to-the-pin contests, with both players also likely proposing money challenges on putts and up-and-downs. The bets will likely be in the range of $10,000 to $50,000 per wager.”
  • “Both players and their caddies will be wearing microphones. Drone coverage will deliver “camera angles that have never been seen before for a live golf event,” according to a Turner Sports press release. Real-time, hole-by-hole statistics on the screen will display the probability of different outcomes.”
5. Remembering the Skins Game
Excellent stuff from Alex Myers at Golf Digest remembering the dearly departed Skins Game.
  • He rounds up a few of the most memorable moments, including…”Tom Watson accused Gary Player of cheating…”For the most part, the Skins Game epitomized hit-and-giggle golf, but things got a bit testy between two of the game’s legends during the inaugural event in 1983. With $120,000 on the line on the 16th hole, Watson was overheard confronting Player about allegedly illegally improving his lie by patting down a root behind his ball. Here’s what New York Times columnist Dave Anderson wrote:”
  • “From 30 feet away, Tom Watson could be heard saying, ‘I’m accusing you, Gary … you can’t do that … I’m tired of this … I wasn’t watching you, but I saw it.’ Gary Player could be heard defending himself, saying at one point, ‘I was within the rules.'”
  • “Watson maintained his belief that Player-knowingly or unknowingly-cheated and issued a statement the following day that said in part, “If we overlook the rules, then the game as we know it would become something much less than it is. My greatest regret, though, is that this private matter became a public incident.”
6. Vic Open, featuring men and women, will be co-sanctioned by LPGA Tour (Euro Tour too)
AP Report…”Golf Australia says the 2019 Vic Oen, which features both men and women playing simultaneously, will be co-sanctioned by the LPGA tour….The men’s portion of the tournament has already been announced to be on the European Tour next year.”
“Golf Australia said Wednesday the Vic Open will be held at 13th Beach Golf Links west of Melbourne from Feb. 7-10….The Women’s Australian Open, which has been on the LPGA tour for eight years, will now be part of a two-week Australian swing.”
7. Jack Nicklaus, President Trump tee it up
AP Report…”President Donald Trump is spending the first day of his Thanksgiving break taking advantage of the good golfing weather.”
  • “White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham says the president was playing “a quick round” on Wednesday with golf legend Jack Nicklaus, Nicklaus’s professional golfer son Gary, and his grandson G.T.”
  • “The trip is Trump’s first of the season to his private Mar-a-Lago club, where he typically spends Thanksgiving, Christmas and many winter weekends.”
8. Top Tiger-Phil showdowns
Great stuff from the Golfweek staff rounding up the best Woods-Mickelson showdowns from the past two decades.
  • It’d be unfair to just poach their No. 1 entry, so here’s No. 2…”2007 Deutsche Bank Championship”
  • “This is, without a doubt, Mickelson’s most impressive triumph in a duel with Woods. Mickelson began the final round two back and Woods was three behind. With this duo paired together and playing well that Monday, it would ultimately come down to them.”
  • “Lefty piled up five birdies in the opening 10 holes and was so dominant early on that this appeared it would be a rout. In fact, Woods was five back of Mickelson with seven to play. But the pressure would intensify. Mickelson made a sloppy double bogey at the 12th and Woods buried a 40-footer for birdie at the 14th to cut the lead to two.”
  • “The climax arrived at the par-3 16th, where Woods stepped up and knocked his tee shot to 10 feet. Mickelson answered in the cauldron by stuffing his approach 6 feet under the hole. Woods rolled in his birdie putt, but Mickelson calmly buried his own to retain an important two-shot margin.”
  • “It was a huge moment for Mickelson – who would go on to win by two shots – proving he could outduel Woods as Lefty was in the major-winning phase of his career.”
9. The biggest influence on your child’s development in sports
Interesting piece, as our Thomas Devine, a junior golf instructor and director of the Future Elite Junior Golf Programme, weighs in on the most important elements in a child’s athletic development.
  • He offers this in conclusion…”Whilst participation development models that acknowledge physical, technical, and other assets do hold great value, a model that completely disregards any social aspects of development has to be questioned. Below are the important take home points”
  • “Social aspects underpin everything we do and an acknowledgement of unique social situations is paramount in youth development…Luck can often play a huge part in youth development…Children should not be judged or selected based upon something that is out of their control….Be aware of relative age effect/biological age…..(but, do not make it your priority as neurological age is more important than biological age!!…Talking to parents and children is the key catalyst to bridging the gap between development and social issues….The relationships we develop with children are critical to motivations and lifelong participation.”
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  1. bill williams

    Nov 22, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    At least that five-some can walk and/or fly the golf course…. which is more than you can say about pot-bellied humans scurrying around in their golf carts.

    • ogo

      Nov 23, 2018 at 3:25 pm

      Turkeys can’t fly…. only waddle and gobble… and get roasted…!!

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Morning 9: (People’s) Champion Golfer of the Year | BK on J.B.’s pace of play | Xander vs. R&A? | Portrush triumphant

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

July 22, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Champion Golfer of the Year
Look, you watched Shane Lowry win The Open by six strokes, holding his never to improve by upon the margin he started Sunday at Portrush with by two. No need to recap that. Instead, let’s check out some of the fantastic writing inspired by Lowry’s hoisting of the Claret Jug.
For example, this passage from Tom English at BBC Scotland…
  • “…The 16th is infamous around here. It’s called Calamity Corner for a reason. Lowry, though, was in a place where nothing could hurt him. He was kicking for home and preparing for victory. Still a steely focus, still in his bubble. It’s impossible to know if Lowry heard it, but on his way to the 16th tee a Northern Irishman shouted out at him: “You’re doing us proud, Shane.” Us.”
  • “Through the sunshine of Saturday and the brutality of Sunday, Lowry was serenaded. He wasn’t south or north, he wasn’t Catholic or Protestant, he was Irish. He was their guy. He was the one they transferred all their passion and all their love to when Rory McIlroy exited on Friday.”
  • “Through Lowry, they united. And it was powerful. Back in the worst days of The Troubles, the people trying to build bridges were always horribly undermined by those trying to blow them up. The badness always got more projection than the goodness.”
2. Lowry’s day in the sun was windy, rainy for pretty much everyone else
Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”The final round of the 148th Open Championship will be remembered for Shane Lowry’s fairytale victory and the sordid horror stories that many of his pursuers will recall with strains of bemusement and bewilderment.”
  • “Royal Portrush was as mendacious as advertised on Sunday after three days of general hospitable appeasement. All it took was a strafing wind out of the southwest – the wind most oppressive on the Dunluce Links – to provide the kind of necessary accouterment.”
  • “…It’s not that the weather that moved in over the Causeway Coast and Glens was more severe than anything most competitors had seen before. But as Russell Knox explained after shooting a 77: “We’ve played in worse rain. We’ve played in more wind. But it was on the biggest stage on a demanding course. So everything is kind of highlighted.”

Full piece.

3. BK won’t blame J.B. 
Per Golfweek’s Steve Dimeglio Koepka (who finished tied for fourth after a final-round 74) had this to say about his exceedingly deliberate playing partner…”J.B. had a rough day. J.B. is a slow player. I know it’s difficult with the wind, but I didn’t think he was that bad today,” Koepka said. “I thought he was all right. There were times where I thought it was slow. There’s a lot of slow guys out here.”
  • “What I don’t understand is when it’s your turn to hit, your glove is not on, then you start thinking about it, that’s where the problem lies. It’s not that he takes that long. He doesn’t do anything until his turn. That’s the frustrating part. But he’s not the only one that does it out here.
  • “But like I said, it wasn’t that bad today, it really wasn’t. It was slow, but it wasn’t that bad for his usual pace. It was relatively quick for what he usually does.”
4. Leaning on Bo
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”Lowry needed someone to talk to Sunday afternoon.”
  • He knew he was lucky to escape the first hole without significant damage, dropping just one shot to Tommy Fleetwood by making a bogey putt of significant length. All afternoon he held his lead, and all afternoon thoughts persisted about how bad it would hurt to see it slip away in front of his countrymen. Some of them were faces he recognized from back home in Clara, County Offaly.”
  • “Enter caddie Brian ‘Bo’ Martin.”
  • “He was unbelievable today,” Lowry said. “He kept on my back all day, kept talking to me, he kept in my ear. I kept on telling him now nervous I was, how scared I was, how much I didn’t want to mess it up. All I could think about was walking down 18 with a four- or five-shot lead. And lucky I got to do that.”
5. John Bradley’s bad Sunday
Golf Channel’s Jay Coffin…”Holmes began the final round in third place and in the penultimate group with Brooks Koepka. He shot a final-round 87, seven shots worse than any other player, and tied for 67th place, beating only three players who made the cut.”
  • “The first shot of the day flew left off the first tee and into the internal out of bounds. He reloaded and opened with a double-bogey 6.”
  • “By the time Holmes made the turn, he shot 41 and was well out of contention. But the next nine holes were much, much worse than the previous nine.”
  • “Holmes, 37, made triple bogey on the par-4 11th hole, then followed it with a double bogey on the par-5 12th. After two more bogeys over the next four holes, he closed with consecutive double bogeys on the final two holes to shoot a second-nine 46 and a 16-over 87.”
6. A relatable champion
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”Only his exquisite command of a golf ball distinguishes Shane Lowry from any Irishman you’d get from central casting. He is a dry wit, is fond of a pint, is colorful with his language, is devoted to his family and is a stranger to the gym. He looks like a man more likely to be guarding the Claret Jug than having his name engraved on it, but he’s undeniably a man you’d want to be drinking from it with.”
“Lowry grew up just 130 miles from Royal Portrush, a journey of four hours across Ireland’s backroads and, crucially, the U.K.’s border. That’s why Lowry can escape the yoke that has often been draped on the shoulders of Northern Irish natives who make a name in the world beyond. Unlike Rory McIlroy, he need not navigate the binary bigotry of Northern Ireland, and isn’t asked to declare an allegiance, Irish or British. In a place consumed with identity, he is someone fans can simply identify with.”
7. Take us back to Portrush!
So pleads Golfweek’s Forecaddie...
“After all, players have given their thumb’s up, as The Man Out Front’s colleague Alistair Tait reported. And R&A officials on site all seemed giddy about the venue, openly gushing about ticket sales and mostly pulling off a successful operation. The club members, other than having their phones ring off the hook with golfers wanting to experience one of golf’s best courses, struck TMOF as quite pleased they hosted and sounded ready for another.”
  • “Golf architect Martin Ebert, the club’s consulting architect who was doing his best to take in the proceedings in between congratulations for deftly touching up H.S. Colt’s design, told The Forecaddie that meetings this week will determine what went well and what needs work. Topics may include adjustments to Ebert’s new 7th hole, the internal out of bounds that killed Rory McIlroy’s week and a few other intriguing restorative elements held back from the pre-2019 preparations.”
8. Xander vs. the R&A?  
ICYMI: Xander remained unhappy over the weekend about his (driver’s) failed test (he did delete a couple of tweets on the subject though)…
Geoff Shackelford…”At issue: Who went public or even leaked news of Schauffele’s Callaway Epic driver failing a COR test for “spring like effect”?
  • “Schauffele says it was the R&A, host this week and one of two governing bodies in golf. But assembled media and fans were unaware of the issue until the world No. 11 spoke following Friday’s second round. While there were rumblings of failed tests on the grounds, according to Schauffele, within the “traveling circus” of pro golf the failed test was known. One player jokingly heckled Schauffele, and he blames the R&A.”
  • “It is an unsettling topic,” Schauffele said. “I’ve been called a cheater by my fellow opponents. It’s all joking, but when someone yells ‘cheater’ in front of 200 people, to me it’s not going to go down very well.”
9. Other golf stuff!
On the LPGA Tour…(AP report)Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura ran away with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on Saturday, shooting an 11-under 59 in best-ball play for a six-stroke victory.
  • At the PGA Tour’s alternate event, the Barbasol Championship, Jim Herman fired a final-round 2-under 70 for a one-stroke win over Kelly Kraft.
  • Kristoffer Ventura won on the Korn Ferry Tour.

 

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Not even gaoth and basiteach could stop Lowry’s march to the Open Championship

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In Gaelic, gaoth is wind, and basiteach is rain. Don’t ask for a pronunciation lesson, however. Neither of those elemental forces offered much opposition to Shane Lowry, in his essentially, wire-to-wire victory in the 148th playing of the Open Championship.

10 years after he won the Irish Open, as an amateur no less, at Baltray, Lowry came to Royal Portrush and held off Tommy Fleetwood to win his first major championship.

We’ve identified 5 keys to victory, and are pleased to relate them below. It was a glorious week in Portrush, and our return should not be too far off in the future.

1. The atmosphere

In Scotland, it’s the craic; in Ireland, it’s the shebeen. That wondrous, celebratory mood that transcends age, weather, and any conceivable obstacle. Lowry withstood a short, missed putt in 2009, and here he was again, a decade later, in similar circumstances. Eager to lay away the burden of his 2016 US Open loss to Dustin Johnson, Lowry breathed in the environment with enthusiasm. Eschewing a Saturday evening of monastic contemplation, he and his caddie went out for a pint or two. It was the craic and the shebeen that carried him on its shoulders, to victory.

2. The quick starts

There was no doubt that Brooks Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, had much experience going round the Portrush. Trouble was, Brooks didn’t. His putting abandoned him for four straight days. In complete contrast, Lowry appeared to make every roll in site, until Sunday. By then, no one was making putts. Have a glance at these starts for the burly Lowry:

  • Thursday: -2 through 7
  • Friday: -5 through 8
  • Saturday: -2 through 7
  • Sunday: -2 through 7

Never once did he get off with a struggle. 11-under par each day, heading to the back nine, was a whale of an advantage. Many will point to the glorious birdies he made over a closing hole or two, but it was that knowledge that the outward half was his, that doubtless buoyed his spirits.

3. Grace while scrambling

It would be fitting that, in some dialectal variation of a communication system, the word Lowry or a derivative, meant Big man with soft hands. His driving was exquisite all week, but in order to secure birdies, he needed to chase it on here, bump it on there, flop it on here, and roll it up there. The launch pad made no difference: short grass, thick stuff, or sand. Lowry was on point from start to finish. If it were a Ryder Cup year, the European captain would doubtless search for a partner for the Irish Hagrid. As it is, they have plenty of time to figure out how to use this latest weapon.

4. Consistently great play

Not once all week did Lowry make a fortunate bogey. Even as he gave a shot or two away  (8 bogies in total, 5 in the final round) he was never on the brink of disaster. Near as the cliffs and the causeway were for some, Lowry never dance along gravity’s edge. The entirety of the week was an artisan’s master class. Fortunate us, we have the video to review, to review what Lowry taught us in real time.

5. The fan support

There’s a difference between atmosphere and fan support. Atmosphere is for the fans, and can distract the player if he allows it. Support needs nor writing nor speech; it is felt by the intended recipient and utilized to will shots toward their target. After Clarke, McDowell and McIlroy gave evidence that they would not challenge for the title of Champion Golfer of the Year, Lowry became a de facto Ulsterman. And why not? County Westmeath borders County Cavan, and the later is one of the 3 non-Northern Ireland counties of Ulster. There was great affection and appreciation for each competitor this week, but a special warmth was reserved for the eventual champion.

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5 things we learned on Saturday at The Open Championship

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On Saturday, the Royal and Ancient announced that tee times would be moved up on Sunday, in anticipation of, well, British Open golf weather. Cue head scratch and chin stroke. At least the organizers didn’t opt for split tees or some other, silly-American addition to the game. On Saturday, we again watched the ebb and flow of Royal Portrush. The “strike early and hold on late” mantra that has characterized this tournament.

On Saturday, we marveled at one man’s near-mastery of this wondrous, Harry Colt design, whose absence from the Open Championship rota must never be repeated. To limit ourselves to five things learned is lamentable, but it is both burden and duty. Accordingly, here are the 5 things that we learned from Saturday’s 3rd round of the Open Championship.

1. European golf fans are marvelous, while American ones have much to learn

“Ole, ole ole ole” is the most supportive thing you can hear on a golf course. Not bah-bah-black sheep, err, booey, not mashed potatoes. Today, the “ole” was replaced with “Lowry,” in tribute to the Irish champion. There is community in European events, and much as they want their golfer to win, they support everyone who plays proper golf. There will be no appeal here to the wags who insist on cementing their unfortunate place in history as burdensome; instead, we tip our cap to the great golfing fans of Northern Ireland, who carry all who compete on the wings of appreciation.

2. Shane Lowry is happy to dream a dream

Don’t wake him just yet, thank you very much. Another 24 hours of this hypnagogic state will suit him well. The Irishman had 8 birdies on Saturday, for 63 and 197. He has 19 birdies and a mere 3 bogeys on the week. He sits at 16 shots below par, 4 clear of his nearest pursuer. No, it’s not over. It has barely begun. Royal Portush has shown that it will cede a low score to great golf, so a 62 is not out of the realm of the possible.

In truth, perhaps a dozen golfers have a chance, but you would be challenged to find a better selection of challengers. Justin Rose, Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood are four Englishmen who would love to lift the Claret jug in triumph on Sunday. Brooks Koepka, J.B. Holmes and Rickie Fowler represent the American contingent who hope to spirit the trophy away to a distant shore. And lest we forget, the young Spaniard, Jon Rahm, continues to take steps toward the highest echelon of championship golf. Above them all sits Lowry, current occupant of the Iron Throne. He has lost a final-round lead in a major event before. Sunday will give him a chance to demonstrate all that he has learned in the interim.

3. Brooks Koepka blueprints major championship golf

Speaking of Koepka, he’s still here. He birdied 17 and 18, just as viewers and fans were convinced that this tournament had left his domain. Only the envious and the haters (cousins to the envious) find fault with his golf game. They attempt to marginalize his skill set, focusing in desperation on his power, calling him one dimensional. In truth, we haven’t yet seen his best. He has reached -9 with a B+/A- effort at best. If the cylinders that fired for Lowry on Saturday, find their way to Koepka’s engine on Sunday, he will claim the title. It’s not possible to say that confidently nor currently about any other golfer than him.

 

4. Tommy Fleetwood will have his major opportunity on Sunday

The Englishman did what he needed to do on Saturday, to secure the coveted pairing with Lowry in round 4. Fleetwood made 5 birdies on the day, and didn’t threaten to make worse than par. The only difference between his round and that of the leader, was his concluding run of 6 pars. Reverse hole 15-17, and Fleetwood sits at -15, while Lowry resides at -13. Fleetwood has been accurate as a laser this week, and he will need to repeat that performance from both tee and fairway, to give himself a chance at victory.

5. What will the weather bring?

Wind, for one thing. For three days, competitors have dictated the shape of their shots. On Sunday, that right will not be theirs. Winds from the left, from the right, from every possible angle, will demand that golfers play shots low, under and through the gusts, to reach their targets. Rain, for another thing. The moisture will thicken the rough, allowing balls to drop deep into the native grasses. It will cause shots to squirt sideways, perhaps down a ravine, perhaps worse. If what is predicted, comes to pass, we’re in for an entirely-new tournament over the final 18 holes.

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